1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Breaking in a Target Bolt Action Rifle

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by 45R, Mar 24, 2003.

  1. 45R

    45R Well-Known Member

    How does one go about breaking in a bolt action rifle.

    I have heard of fire lapping kits.
    Shot once, brush patch repeat 50 times.

    Whats the best most effective way to do this?


  2. Dave P

    Dave P Well-Known Member

    What kind of rifle is it? If its a typical rem-chester, just clean the bbl a bit during the first few rounds. Then go shoot and enjoy.

    Don't go overboard with the cleaning routines, you will just wear yourself out! .:D
  3. echo3mike

    echo3mike Well-Known Member

    Steps to "break in a barrel":

    1) do a search here and on The Firing Line ;

    2) study the for (O.K. for a factory barrel, probably not needed for a custom barrel) and against (wastes barrel life...isn't needed as it will happen on it's own...too much or improper cleaning can ruin a barrel...don't use abrasives...) arguments;

    3) become more confused than you are now;

    4) follow the rifle / barrel manufacturers advice. After all, it's their product and warranty.

  4. Crimper-D

    Crimper-D Well-Known Member

    Breaking In???

    Is this the same as:
    Shooting a weapon...
    Cleaning it.
    Shooting it some more.
    All the while checking out loads, sight settings, etc.
    The proceedure sounds familiar, but the terminology appears to have been changed - again:rolleyes:
  5. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

    I started shooting .22 rimfire around 1941 or 1942. I got my first '06 in 1950 as a gift from my father and uncle, who had been shooting centerfires since the 1920s.

    Until registering at The Firing Line in late 1998, I had never heard of "breaking in" a rifle.

    I buy into Gale McMillan's words of wisdom, as posted at TFL: Don't bother.

    :), Art
  6. cratz2

    cratz2 Well-Known Member

    These two sentences tell you everything you need to know.

    If it makes you feel better:

    Shoot a round, Clean repeat x 5
    Shoot 5 rounds, Clean repeat x 5
  7. swingset

    swingset Well-Known Member

    For the 20th time, breaking in a barrel will probably never help accuracy, that's not the reason to do it.

    McMillan shows his bias and I think makes a fool of himself when he ridicules the practice based on accuracy and barrel life. There are hundreds of top benchrest shooters that break in their barrels, and they seem to know what McMillan doesn't.

    What breaking-in does do, on a new barrel, is make the barrel less likely to foul on a given number of rounds. Believe you me, I've done it both ways on identical guns, and I know with 100% certainty that the broke in barrel is easier to clean after shooting, doesn't foul as bad or as fast. If you're shooting 200 rounds in a match, that will make or break your match, I guarantee it. Follow the Kroil break-in and see if I'm not right about that.

    Custom barrels are usually hand lapped, and negate the need somewhat, but I'd still do a modest break in on one. If you clean correctly, it certainly isn't going to wear the barrel out.:rolleyes:
  8. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

    swingset, you might be correct about Mr. McMillan but for one thing: A competition BR group-size of 0.001". Me, I'd probably shut up and listen to whoever does better than that. I've always believed that those whose track records exceed those of the rest of us have more accurate knowledge than I do.

    I think that what's being called "break in" might better be labelled "finishing the barrel-making process". Those barrels which actually benefit from a break-in apparently weren't built to McMillan standards.

    :D, Art
  9. JohnBT

    JohnBT Well-Known Member

    swingset - I'm curious why you'd favor the opinion of shooters, benchrest or otherwise, over an extremely successful barrel maker(and gun builder and shooter, etc.)?

    Maybe the shooters you're referring to whould do even better if they'd follow his advice and stop polishing the corners off the lands.

    I'd certainly never refer to the late Mr. McMillan as a fool.

    Here's part of a post he made on rec.guns about one little facet of his career.

    "For a long period during the 80s I built all the Marine Corp match
    rifles. The first four thousand yard rifles I built them (on Rem
    actions) set and reset the National Record 17 times the first year.
    I had the opportunity to see the difference between the Win. and Rem. when I built 6 Rems. and 6 solid bottom Wins at the same time. The barrels came off the buttoning machine one after the other and all 12 guns were built exactly the same."

    What were you doing when Mr. McMillan's rifles AND BARRELS were setting records?

  10. echo3mike

    echo3mike Well-Known Member

    From Gale McMillan's post, found here

    Does anyone really think Remington or Winchester puts the kind of effort into their barrels as a custom riflesmith? I think not. I can bet that the finish on the average bore isn't anywhere near the hand-lapped quality of his or her bore. If you're talking about a high end custom barrel, a break in probably isn't really needed, especially if you're a competitive shooter who can REALLY tell when a barrel is going south because it's happened to you.

    That being said, quick show of hands...how many of us here have shot a barrel out?...I mean really shot out...anyone ever wear a barrel out at all?...by any means...

    I'll wait...

    Darn few I'll bet. Gale McMillan was a good guy, a heck of a shooter and had some good ideas. But he's one guy, talking about his own barrels and cleaning them with an abrasive paste. Hand lapped barrles with alot of work into them made for those who can shoot the difference. The average Joe (myself included) probably won't ever shoot or wear a barrel out no matter how badly we treat them. And to be perfectly honest, I've got some real issues about how a bullet that's (slightly) larger than the bore going through at 50,000+PSI several thousand times over the course of the rifle's life is going to have less impact than a few dozen extra strokes with a bore brush.

    And from another of his posts (from the same thread)

    You're going to be getting your scope zeroed and doing some load testing, right? I'll suggest a compromise, since this is one of those topics that causes flame wars... after every group, just clean it well and forget all this BS. Catchem-Savvy?

    Just one more opinion from some guy (who obviously has issues) on a bulletin board...FWIW,
  11. BHP9

    BHP9 member

    I have found this also to be true.
    It does not matter one iota whether you bust your butt going through prayer , ritual and incantations by the light of the moon or wether you just take the gun out and shoot it.

    The results are all exactly the same if one cleans the copper out after firing it.

    New barrels of low quality are often rough inside and do improve in accuracy after the 2,000 round mark is reached as long as you clean the copper out after you shoot them and it doesn't matter if you break them in or just take them out and shoot them and then clean the coppper out of them. This was proven over half a century ago by the U.S. military in testing .30 caliber military rifles.

    I have found that high quality match barrels that have very smooth bores need no breaking in whatsoever. I have fired brand new match grade weapons that gave 1/4" groups right out of the box and they did not foul any more than going through the wierd and time consuming cleaning rituals that the "Chosen People" perform that borders on religious fanaticism.

    In short I have found breaking in barrels to be a complete waist of time. Just remember to clean all the copper out of the barrel every time you shoot it and you will have no problems with either fouling or deterioration of accuracy.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2003
  12. swingset

    swingset Well-Known Member

    (Art's Grammaw objected.) I still stick to my guns...on a new barrel, one that isn't hand lapped or professionally finished, it matters.

    I own 2 Ruger 77/22's. Both bought within 6 months of each other. The first one was not "broke in". The second was. All else is equal, barrel wise, I've always shot and cleaned identically. The only difference is break in.

    The first gets dirtier, and after 50 or so rounds shows more of a drop in accuracy. The second will go much higher, more like 150 rounds before falling off. Plus, the second gun is much easier to clean. A few Kroil patches through and it's spotless. The first gun is more stubborn. Guess McMillan knows his stuff and I'm the moron.

    Listen, do whatever makes you feel like a pro, I don't care. But, if I were to buy a new off-the-shelf Savage or Remington with typical factory barrel, I know without a doubt that no matter what the prince-of-barrels preaches, breaking in matters. I know it, I've seen it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 26, 2003
  13. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

    swingset, relax. What we "no-break-in" folks are talking against are these elaborate regimes sometimes offered which use all manner of pastes and multitudes of brushings and patchings and Lord knows what-all. Some guys seem to think the phase of the moon is important!

    Go back and re-read the first post, okay?

    And nobody is calling you a moron. Folks are basically saying that when somebody of the stature of a McMillan gives a detailed explanation of his reasoning, somebody opposed to his ideas is pretty much obligated to respond with his own reasoning.

    Look: Just the very act of shooting is a burnishing of the surface of a barrel. It's like using a leather strop on a straight razor. I don't think that any of us would object to some extra cleaning during the early life of a rifle, particularly those of generally lesser quality. We're just objecting to elaborate routines.

    One last point: The vast majority of all shooters take a new rifle out and sight it in. This generally takes less than a box of ammo. They then go home, clean the rifle and maybe don't go shooting again until the hunting season. That rifle is gonna serve them quite well. Until it's known as to other styles of use, it's pointless to go into some elaborate style of "break in".

  14. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Moderator Emeritus

    E3M it would probably not surprise you to know that I have worn out barrels, but that I am different than most here. That said I don't do any fancy break in. I just shoot the damned thing and it works. My first HP barrel was a Wilson which wasn't hand lapped and it probably has about 4K of hot loads on it. I expect it to die soon for 600 yards within the next 1K at least, but John Holliger checked it with a borescope and said it would probably last much longer than that! Despite that its place on the line has been replaced by a Pac-Nor which was hand lapped. It did not see a break in ritual either. I keep it clean early, rarely use a brush, mainly Butch's Bore Shine and cloth patches, and I use JB Bore paste every 300 rounds or so to precent a carbon residue buildup in my throat.
  15. JohnBT

    JohnBT Well-Known Member

    I certainly wouldn't bother using a shoot one shot and then clean routine on a .22 rifle shooting lead bullets.

    Sako recommends 'breaking in' their Finnfire by shooting about 1200 shots through the hammer-forged barrel. They claim the barrel will slick up at that point.(Okay, if they say so. I liked it just fine out of the box.) I do push a patch through from time to time to clear some of the powder fouling and also run a brush into the chamber once in awhile to keep the leade clear of lead buildup. I don't know that it's necessary, but I do it.

    I know of one borescope owner who will no longer use a brush in any of his .22s because of the scratches they leave.

    Swingset - What exactly do you figure smoothed the STEEL in the barrel? The cotton patch or the brass brush? They're both softer than steel. If you used an abrasive, then you've sanded down the lands too.

    To each their own, but I still wouldn't call Mr. McMillan a fool.

  16. echo3mike

    echo3mike Well-Known Member

    Nope, Steve-O, doesn't surprise me a bit. You probably shoot more rounds during the season than most folks do for the life of their rifles, and I don't doubt that you can shoot the difference between your barrels and the $15 Remchester tubes on a new stick. I'm willing to wager that the first practice session puts 50 to 100 rounds through the bore? By that time, I think your barrel is probably broken in even if you don't mean to.

    Since most barrels will undergo this process regardless of the intentions, I'm gonna side with the non-elaborate break-in folks. I still don't think that it's as potentially damaging as many shooters say it is, but I agree that a long, laborious process isn't warranted. I'll give some anecdotal support for, as Gale put it, cleaning well after every group;

    My first "real" rifle was an loaded M1A, NM barrel, yadda. Went through Sinclair's break-in routine...

    shoot 1 and clean X 2;
    shoot 2 and clean X 2;
    clean with Sweets;
    shoot 3 and clean X 4;
    clean with Sweets;
    shoot 3 and clean X 4;
    clean with Sweets;
    (30 total shots through the bore)
    shoot 5 and clean X 3;
    clean with Sweets;
    shoot 5 and clean X 3;
    clean with Sweets;
    (60 total shots through the bore)
    shoot 5-7 shots and clean ;
    clean with Sweets perform the last two steps to 100 total shots through the bore. (And, yes, Art...I did this during the New Moon)

    Took at least two trips to the range, a couple of weeks and the thing still fouled like a bear and gave me shotgun patterns, (alot of it was my fault...'nother story). In fact, I don't think I shot that rifle much more until I sold it.

    Next came an ADL in 30.06, w/ a sporter barrel. Bought used, and I don't think it was shot more than a few hundred rounds before I got hold of it. Gets some darn impressive sub MOA groups with handloads, but it fouls something fierce. Removing the copper is a multi-day exercise.

    Finally get a VS in .308. I want to treat this one right, so I look at Remington's website for some guidance. Doesn't seem too bad, something like shoot one and clean for 5, shoot 3 and clean for 2, good to go from there. 'Course, when I get to the range, I forget about all this stuff since I was going to get the scope sighted in and check out some loads. And since I'm a big believer in an accurate CBS, I shoot one, adjust the scope, and clean out the bore. Finally get on target in 3 or 4 shots, then I move to checking some loads. I wanted to give every load a fighting chance and assess the CBS so I cleaned after every 5 shot group. I think I checked maybe 4 or 5 loads that day.

    I've found that the VS doesn't powder or copper foul nearly as much as the ADL. But I didn't INTENTIONALLY go out to do any sort of ritualistic process, or follow the manufacturer's advice. That's just the way it worked out.

    Do I believe in Sinclair's process, no. Too time consuming, costs too much in supplies and effort, and the results are spurious and suspect. Do I believe in intentionally performing some kind of ritual, no. I believe that hunters need to know where their CBS is going. A fouled barrel can give false POI's and cost you game. And the only way to find this out is to clean after your groups. It isn't intentional, isn't really ritualistic, but it does appear to be a "break-in" of sorts.

    So, all anecdotal evidence aside, go out, adjust your scope for a CBS, and clean between groups. You'll be performing this alleged break-in, following the manufacturers advice, and actually getting some work done at the same time. It was just so much easier to say "follow the manufacturer's advice".

    BTW, has anyone seen 45R lately??

  17. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Moderator Emeritus

    Why am I so embarrassed to admit this? :D

    45R? nope.
  18. swingset

    swingset Well-Known Member

    Sweet Jeeps! Here we go again. Did I say break-in is the same as lapping? Don't think I did. I also don't use abrasives on my barrels nor did I recommend anyone doing so. Kroil & cotton is it.

    I said, if I recall, that the break in helps to keep the barrel from fouling as easy, and it helps to make cleaning easier. THAT'S IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nothing more.

    I didn't say it smoothed out the barrel, I didn't say it increased accuracy, I didn't say it was going to be a miraculous advantage. Just that it makes the dang thing easier to clean. Ugh.
  19. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

    Not aimed at any one person: There's an old adage about speeches and writings which goes, "It's not your duty to understand me. It is my obligation to make myself understood."

    This means we must review our posts before hitting the "do it" button, to make sure as to clarity. We don't have body language and facial expressions to help get our meanings across to others. Otherwise we get into that old bit about, "What you thought I meant isn't what I thought I was saying--I think."

    More than once I have seen guys ready to come to blows over a perceived disagreement, when in reality they are in total accord...

    :), Art
  20. JohnBT

    JohnBT Well-Known Member

    I guess I don't see how a barrel would be easier to clean if it wasn't smoother. If's it's still as rough as the day it was made, then it appears to me that it would continue to snag copper, lead and powder fouling on every shot.

    I guess I can see that some kind of break in procedure might fill the rough spots in the bore with a mixture of copper and crud, but wouldn't it come right back out the next time you cleaned it and leave it rough again?

    Dan Lilja on his site recommends a brief break in process, but he only recommends the use of abrasives like JB Paste when it is absolutely necessary. Before somebody goes off halfcocked about abrasives - I wasn't the first one to mention bench rest shooters by way of example as to what the 'experts' do. Bunches and bunches of bench rest shooters regularly use abrasives in their break in and cleaning process.

    You pays your money and you takes your chances. Me? I can't afford to replace barrels like the BR shooters do. Maybe next year I will and then I'll treat my barrels like they do.


Share This Page